Choosing the Right Type of Contractor for a Major Remodeling Project

Brian Hogan
Jun 2, 2022 4:08:43 PM

If you’re planning a major home renovation project, chances are you’ll be hiring professionals to make your remodeling dreams a reality. Even handy homeowners with a long track record of successful home improvement projects often turn to the pros when they tackle a major remodel.


You know you need to hire a professional contractor, but which type of contractor is best for your job? To help you answer that question completely and with confidence, we’ve created a comprehensive Guide to Hiring a Remodeler. Here, we’ve pulled excerpts from that guide to give you an idea of what to consider when you’re searching for the right contractor.    

Read on to explore the various kinds of pros you could hire for your home renovation project, and learn the major benefits that come with choosing a seasoned design-build firm.  

What type of contractors are available for my project?  

If you want your extensive renovation project to be well-executed and completed in a timely manner, it’s best to bring in professionals. That’s because the average project can require everything from demolition, drywall, electrical, and plumbing to flooring, finishes, and cabinet installation. 

What’s more, permits are required for most projects, and somebody needs to be on-site to meet with inspectors as well as coordinate and oversee all the tradesmen who are involved with the job.

But who do you hire? In the Chicagoland area and most other regions of the country, you have three general choices. You could hire: 

  • A “handyman” or unlicensed contractor 
  • An architect along with a general contractor
  • An all-inclusive design/build firm

Each of these choices comes with its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks, depending on your renovation budget and goals.  

Why Should I Avoid Hiring an Unlicensed Contractor?

Because the cost of remodeling can be high, some homeowners are tempted to hire a handyman or unlicensed contractor. Hiring a handyman may carry some risks. If you’re just doing a little cosmetic face-lift, a handyman might be a fine choice (although the work might look like it was done by a handyman rather than a professional carpenter and qualified subcontractors). 

The real risk is when a handyman acts as a general contractor but offers to save you money by doing the work on the sly, without permits

It’s very unlikely (and certainly not desirable) that you could remodel without upgrading at least some of the wiring in your home, for instance. And if a handyman offers to put in new outlets or open up the walls without the proper permits, it’s illegal and potentially dangerous. If you proceed with unpermitted work, you will ultimately be opening yourself up to risks.

What’s It Like to Hire an Architect with a General Contractor?

Many homeowners considering a major remodel start by hiring an architect. Under this scenario, you would work with the architect to come up with a plan set, which you could then shop around to building contractors. 

In some cases, your architect may be able to provide you very rough building cost estimates during the design phase, but it’s not until you get bids from contractors that you will find out what the actual cost to build your design will be. 

In many (but not all) cases, your architect will continue to work for you throughout the construction phase. Traditionally, the architect keeps tabs on the contractor to ensure that the project is built to the specifications outlined and that corners are not cut.

white-kitchen-featuring-dual-islands-with-carriage-light-pendants-and-granite-countertopsHow is a Design-Build Firm Different?

A different approach, called design-build, has been gaining momentum in recent years. Choosing a design-build firm for a home remodel means hiring a single company to design and complete the construction of your project rather than signing multiple contracts with an architect and a general contractor. 

By its nature, the design-build approach is more collaborative. You trade the potentially adversarial relationship of an architect checking the work of the contractor for one in which the designers and builders are working together from the start, discussing and anticipating challenges and finding solutions. 

People often choose to hire a design-build firm for improved efficiency, convenience, speed and accountability.

Are There Advantages to Choosing a Design-Build Firm for My Remodeling Project? 

Hiring a remodeler is a big decision. Not only is it a major investment, but you’ll be working closely with whomever you choose for several months or longer. You’re not simply choosing a company to do work for you — you’re inviting a team of people into your home. And hopefully, you’re building a relationship that will last a long time.

If you’re like most homeowners, deciding between the design-build and architect + contractor models represents a major fork in the road of your remodeling planning. For this reason, you should take the time to research the two options and weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Architect + contractor considerations

If working with a renowned architect is a top priority and if construction budget is a secondary consideration, then taking the traditional architect + contractor approach might be the best fit. 

Where high design is paramount, hiring an architect to check the work of the contractor can be effective. This adversarial relationship between the architect and contractor can provide some checks and balances so that your project is built to the specifications, but it often requires the homeowner to step in and mediate between the two parties when disputes arise.

Benefits of the design-build model

If, on the other hand, project cost and convenience are paramount, design-build is often the best choice. A primary benefit of hiring an experienced design-build firm is transparency in pricing

An architect often designs to an ideal vision, and the homeowner doesn’t find out what it will cost to build until the design is complete. Often, construction costs come as a shock, and the homeowner can find that the design plans they paid for and pored over are actually too expensive to build. 

Experienced design-build firms provide construction cost estimates throughout the design process, which leads to plans that are within budget. In short, the three main benefits of the design-build process include minimizing surprises and keeping projects on budget and on a tight schedule.

In fact, the design-build approach lends itself well to fixed pricing. That’s because the building team is involved right from the start of the process, providing accurate estimates, which in turn help guide the design to remain within the homeowner’s budget. 

Get Started with Our Comprehensive Pricing Guides

If you’re inclined to hire a design-build firm, we’ve developed four extensive pricing guides to help you understand what you can expect when you begin talking with our team about your upcoming renovation project: 

Our guides offer price ranges based on Chicagoland area building cost estimates, as well as our own two-plus decades of experience within the industry. Although the figures listed in these resources are only approximate estimates, they can help you gain insight into what you can expect before you set up your first exploratory project meeting. 

If you’re ready to take the first step toward your new home, give us a call or fill out our easy online contact form today. The seasoned team at Hogan Design & Construction is ready to help you make your dream space a reality.

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